Charlottesville, VA (Sports Network) - Instate powers will collide in a Top 25 showdown on Tuesday evening, as the 25th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers play host to the 14th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams at John Paul Jones Arena.
There is a ton of hype surrounding Tony Bennett's Cavaliers, who are picked to finish among the top teams in the very talented ACC this season. Virginia currently resides in the 25th spot in the national polls. The team opened the season ranked No. 24, its first preseason ranking since the 2001-02 campaign. The Cavaliers put on another defensive clinic in their season opener last week, topping James Madison 61-41.
The Rams are not going to sneak up on anyone anymore, as Shaka Smart has built a perennial powerhouse, with VCU representing one of the nation's top mid majors. The team posted a stellar 27-8 record a year ago. If the season opener is any indication, Smart's team this season won't slow up one bit. The Rams opened the year with a rather easy 96-58 rout of Illinois State.
Virginia has won 10 of the 11 all-time meetings in the series with VCU and sports a 5-0 mark in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers have won four straight overall and haven't lost to the Rams since 1987.
The Rams erupted offensively in the season opener, shooting 55.4 percent from the floor overall, including a blistering 68.8 percent in the first half, while taking a 52-22 lead into the break against the Redbirds. Five Rams notched double digits in the offensive onslaught, led by Terrance Shannon and Treveon Graham, who finished with 14 points each. Juvonte Reddic added 13 points to the cause, while Rob Brandenberg and Melvin Johnson chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Briante Weber had a strong game as well, posting nine points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. Things won't always come so easy for the Rams offensively, who may have a tough time matching its start against the Cavaliers.
Long known for their defensive pressure, the Cavs looked to be in mid-season form in the opener against James Madison, limiting the Dukes to just 41 points on a mere .313 shooting, including just 6-of-25 from 3-point range. Offensively, Virginia was led by sophomore forward Anthony Gill's 13 points. Fellow sophomore Mike Tobey came off the bench with 10 points, but All-ACC First-Teamer Joe Harris struggled, finishing with just five points, on 2-of-6 shooting. One of the ACC's top scorers a year ago, Harris poured in 16.3 ppg, while delivering on over 42 percent from behind the arc. Akil Mitchell, who averaged 13.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season, also struggled in the opener, with seven points and three boards.